NATION NATION

After criticism, televangelist Joel Osteen denies closing Houston megachurch to people seeking shelter

Caught in a controversy following the devastation of Tropical Storm Harvey, televangelist Joel Osteen says his Houston megachurch “never” closed its doors to people seeking shelter as the storm swamped the city.

Osteen faced criticism for not opening his massive Lakewood Church as a storm shelter. In a statement to ABC News, Osteen said the church “will continue to be a distribution center for those in need” and is “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.”

In a Tuesday tweet, he announced that the church was now receiving people who need shelter.

https://twitter.com/JoelOsteen/status/902564743218470912

His comment stands in contrast to a church Facebook post and a since-deleted Instagram remark by Lakewood associate pastor John Gray, who said flooding had made the church inaccessible. A spokeswoman for Osteen didn't immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

On Saturday, Osteen had tweeted that he and his wife, Victoria, were “praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.”

https://twitter.com/JoelOsteen/status/901529457621688320

He followed Monday morning with the tweet: “Jesus promises us peace that passes understanding. That’s peace when it doesn’t make sense.”

By Monday, people were calling him out on the social media platform, asking him why he wasn’t opening the megachurch to people seeking shelter.

https://twitter.com/cmclymer/status/902254954181775360

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UPDATES:

9:30 a.m.: This article was updated with Osteen tweeting that his church was open to people seeking shelter.

This story was originally published at 8:10 a.m.

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